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Full text of "The growth of the airplane as a weapon of war / by Leonard E. Eisenberg"

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MAY 24, 1944 


This thesis deals primarily with the use 
of the airplane as a weapon of war. It starts with 
the invention and goes on from its first appearance 
in a war to its present day might. Mingled throughout 
its growth are my own ideas and opinions on disputes 
which have arisen about the potentialities of the airplane 
and on its effects on the human mind. 

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Back in 1903 two brothers, Wilbur and Orville 
Wright, Concluded experiments on their new invention. It 
was the airplane. Hardly could they then realize the po - 
tentialities of their creative genius. The thought that 
it would bring the world closer together or that it would 
bring death and misery to millions never entered their 
minds , 

As a weapon of wa┬╗, the airplane made its first 
showing in World War I, Then, the airplane had not yet 
reached the technical perfection which it was due to 
achieve several decades later, and its possibilities as 
an important offensive weapon were not yet seen. However, 
it was soon to emerge the most effective weapon in the world. 

For a long time after the close of the war, 
the potential power of the airplane was disputed in 
military and political circles. The question was: " Could 
precision aerial bombing be effective in reducing the 
military strength of an enemy to a point where it would 
decide the result of a war? " One school of thought 
maintained that while the airplane could undeniably prove 
valuable as a supplementary weapon, it could never become 

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tiie deciding factor. At the same time, the so-called 
experts claimed that only large concentrations of men, 
ships, and fire power could bring the final victory. On 

the other hand, we have those who thought as the late 
Billy Mitchell did, that the airplane would in time be- 
come the greatest single factor in deciding the outcome 
of a war. If this line of thought had been fostered then, 

we would have been able to meet the enemy on an equal 
footing from the beginning. 

Then came the fall of *39. The airplane made 
its real debut. As the Luftwaffe winged its deadly way 
over Poland, a new phase of terrorism and destruction 
was initiated. It was no longer a haphazard undertaking 
with doubtful results as in 1917, but a carefully planned, 

skillfully executed method of destruction. The effects 
of the bombing raids were not only in physical form, but 
mental as well. The ominous drone of the approaching 
planes brought terror into the hearts of those who were 
about to face them. A feeling of helplessness arose within 
them, .what could they do against so powerful and deadly 
a mechanism. Although we know they are ours, even we in 
the United States get a cold chill when a suadron of 
planes rumble overhead. The results of this debut were 

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so devastating that the invincibility of Goering's air 
arraade became a legend which terrorised Holland, iieigium, 
Norway, and France. It was then that the effectiveness 
of the airplane was fully realised. 

Twice in the present conflict, this lack of 
foresight into the might of the airplane has almost 
brought defeat to the Allies. First, it was on the beach 
of Dunkirk, where the British and French Expeditionary 
Forces were miraculously evacuated under constant attack 
from the Nazi Air Force, The second onslaught was the 
historic battle of London. 

We too in the United States soon felt the weight 
of enemy air power, when the Japs made their treacherous 
attack on Pearl Harbor, Wake, and kidway. 

However, the tide has now changed, we have taken 
over the war in the air. Everyday we read in the newspapers 
of the waves and waves of Allied bombers that are shuttling 
back and fdrth over Germany, Italy, and France. The news- 
reels in the movies show us how air power has levelled 
Tarawe and reduced Cassino to mere shambles. 

Now , with the thoughts of invasion looming 
in the near future, the airplane will take an even greater 
role. It is rather obvious to see that the Germans have 


been building a wall of steel on the French coast for the 
last few years , and it even more obvious that only tons 
tons of high explosives dropped from the air will melt 
it down. It will be a tough nut to crack, and the airplane 
is capable of doing it. However, only time will tell. 


The information used in this thesis was 
obtained through daily contact with newspapers and 
radio,, and enlarged upon by my own ideas and opinions.